See that? I had to make up a word there to figure out how I feel about this ‘70s/80s-era body kit for Datsun B210s called the Datsun 210ZX. The word is a portmanteau of ‘awful’ and ‘wonderful,’ because that’s exactly what this kit was: not wonderfully awful or awfully wonderful, but somehow both at once.
I found out that this thing from a Craigslist ad sent to me selling one of these remarkable mutants in Indianapolis. I’ve also learned that what may be the hardest-working example of a 210ZX still around is an active Lemons racer, so as you read this keep in mind that there’s still some of these roaming the earth.
The kit was designed to fit a 1974-1978 Datsun B210, already a good-looking, sporty car. But, that’s clearly not enough for some people. Some special B210 owners may have felt the need to TURN THEIR DATSUN INTO A CHAMPION, as this ad screams:
There’s so much good stuff in the copy of this ad, once you get looking.
“The 210ZX takes you beyond economy into a world of show-stopping elegance.”
This kit is a lot of things, but associating it with the concept of ‘elegance’ is like trying to associate a fistful of hot chili with the concept of ‘suave.’
I especially like the ad when it tries to pitch this kit on practical reasons:
“The ZX kit replaces over 50% of your Datsun’s body area with rust-resistant fiberglas. This assures you that the beauty of your 210ZX will be with you for years to come.”
So, yeah, you can enjoy having a Datsun that’s only 50% rust, or, even better, is hiding all kinds of far worse rust under those rust-resistant rust-trap fiberglass panels.
Even better is this:
“The ZX conversion kit may even have the effect of providing better fuel economy since air dams, rear spoilers, fender flares, and similar cosmetic acessories were first developed to improve the aerodynamic performance of sports racing cars.” (emphasis mine)
I love this part because it’s absolutely clear that no one at the F.E.D. (Fiberglass Engineering and Design) stick-on body crap company had any idea whatsoever what aero effects the ZX kit would have, and I’m sure as shit that no one there ever wind-tunnel tested the kit or anything like that.
This is about the equivalent of selling a stripe kit and saying it may improve performance because similar stripes are primarily on ‘sports racing cars.’ It’s charmingly magical thinking.
(image from an original 1984-era build)
The kit doesn’t seem to have been too easy to install, either, with the ad copy stating that
“a professional-appearing installation requires the use of a saber saw, rivet gun, electric hand drill with discs, body-working tools, and a torch.”
...which likely put this thing out of the reach of the usual mid-’80s backyard Volkswagen-pan kit-car builder.
I kind of love this kit. It’s so ambitious and awkward and and hopeful and hilarious all at the same time. I have no idea how many of these have survived, but now I really want to see one in the ‘glass.